True Artisanship

Perfecting my Spaghetti alla Marinara

When you make a Marinara sauce from scratch it has nothing to do with the sauce called “Marinara” sold at the grocery store. The result is very light and a favorite chez Graziani.

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I got my recipe from the book Cucino Io, which is a great book filled with great recipes from around the world and which provides a lot of background and historical information related to each recipe.

I enjoy perfecting a dish for many reasons. I like to savor variations of the same recipe, try different adjustments, and find out what works for me and for my family and friends. Adjusting a particular ingredient to our tastes, trying a new one, or removing another often result in great variants that will become our official one. I also like cooking because by using wholesome ingredients I hope to eat well. Finally, I believe in “you are what you eat [and drink, and breath, and wear]” and I love handmade anything.

The original recipe calls for these ingredients:

  1. 350 g spaghetti
  2. 300 g tomatoes
  3. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  6. 1/2 spoon capers
  7. 12 black olives
  8. 2 tablespoons grated pecorino
  9. salt
  10. pepper

First of all, multiply everything by 1.3. I don’t feel like cooking 350 g of spaghetti out of a box of 454 or 500 g. I know that 350 g is the amount of pasta you need for 4 portions, but that really applies to Italian meals that include a solid second dish.

Preparation is as follows:

  1. Boil the tomatoes, remove the skin and dry;
  2. Wash and dry capers
  3. Cook the spaghetti
  4. In a pan, on medium-low heat fry the garlic and remove the garlic;
  5. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes;
  6. Just before the pasta is al dente, add olives, capers and minced parsley;
  7. Add everything to a serving bowl and sprinkle the grated pecorino.

When I followed the recipe using the ingredients listed above I felt that it did not include enough tomatoes. I changed the amount to 1.5 kg. and I still feel that it could use more.

I also like garlic, so I leave it in the sauce when it is sauteed. When I don’t have parsley around, I use some from the spice rack. Fresh parsley is definitely nice and I think it is a key ingredient to this recipe.

I have always wondered why a recipe called Marinara does not include anything from the sea. Why couldn’t it call for some anchovies, for example. So when I went to Cava de’ Tirreni and spoke to Vincenzo he said: “yes, I don’t know why it doesn’t call for any fish, I know some people who do add some anchovies, finely minced, at the end.” I have always wanted to try this, but haven’t yet.

The result of this version of the Marinara sauce is far different from what you would think when looking at “Marinara” tomato sauce in the jar at the grocery store. It is far more savory and pleasing. Its delicate taste makes it a favorite and something that can be had often: we space it only 45 days between tries.

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